Reader question: Is it true that there is an old Franco-American treaty that means US citizens can stay in France for longer than the usual 90 days in any 180-day period?
As a general rule, Americans, like other non-EU nationals who have a short-term visa waiver for visits to the Schengen area (such as Britons, or Australians) can stay in France visa-free for up to 90 days in total in any 180-day period.
The 90 days can be calculated looking backwards from the current day during any stay in France or the Schengen area. This means that you can stay up to 90 days in total, as a maximum, as long as you were not in the area in the 90 days preceding that.
The US State Department, in its travel advice for Americans coming to France, refers to this rule, advising them that they can stay up to 90 days visa-free.
It is sometimes, however, stated that Americans are free to stay in France for longer than 90 days by combining a stay under the ordinary rules with those from an old treaty.
Technically-speaking, this is true.
This is based on the Schengen Convention (signed in 1990) which implemented the 1985 Schengen Agreement.
In article 20, this document refers to the rule of 90 days (originally expressed as ‘three months’) and it adds that this does not affect Schengen members’ right to extend foreign people’s stays beyond three months in accordance with bilateral agreements signed with other states before the convention enters into force (in 1995).
Such an agreement, relating to ordinary US passport holders (as opposed to just special passports, such as for diplomats), was signed between France and the US on April 1, 1949, allowing stays up to 90 days.
An official EU site confirms this, listing this agreement as having been notified to the EU as one that conforms with the article 20 rule, allowing for an extension of a person’s stay.
An official French source confirmed to The Connexion that the treaty was still active, stating: “It is possible, under a bilateral agreement of 1949, for an American citizen to stay for an additional three months in France beyond the 90 days authorised by the Schengen visa per 180 day period.”
Similar agreements have been concluded between France and other countries over the years.
Based on this, a US citizen could try to ask French authorities – for example the prefecture where they intend to stay in France – for the right to stay for three months after they have used up their 90 days Schengen area allowance.
However, Allison Lounes of Your Franceformation, who helps Americans and other non-EU citizens with French visas, previously told The Connexion that she has never heard of anyone relying on this.
She said it is best to stick to the 90/180-day rule, or apply to come on a visa if they wish to stay longer than this.
Daniel Tostado, a French-American immigration attorney and member of the Barreau de Paris and the New York Bar Association, also told us that he also advised people to stick to the 90/180-day rule and that it was not advisable to stay longer than 90 days without the specific right to do so.
“The first good reason is to not be on the wrong side of the French border control agents,” he said.
“They’re not experts in all categories and exceptions of French immigration law so in order to satisfy them, it’s best to have proof of your right to reside in France for more than 90 days upon leaving France.”
If border guards consider you to have overstayed you can risk being given a €198 fine.
Another possibility for US citizens looking to stay in Europe longer, other than obtaining a specific visa, is after their 90 days in the Schengen area have expired, to go to a non-Schengen European country for a period so as to accrue more days they can spend in the Schengen area.